After a big victory on Sunday, Laval looked to make it two wins in as many nights in the second game of the North Division Finals against Rochester. On the back of another strong goaltending performance, they did exactly that, pulling out a 3-1 victory.
With Mattias Norlinder being sidelined after taking a hit to the head in the dying seconds of Game 1, Jean-Francois Houle decided against dressing seven defencemen (Gianni Fairbrother took the warmup). Instead, Lucas Condotta played in his first game with the lines being as follows:
Harvey-Pinard – Dea – Ylonen
Gignac – Paquette – Belzile
Bourque – Abbandonato – Martel
Condotta – Schnarr – Teasdale
Ouellet – Belpedio
Niku – Dello
Schueneman – Paquette-Bisson
Both teams traded chances early in the opening few minutes. Corey Schueneman did well to break up a three-on-one and seconds later, Laval came back with an odd-man rush of their own but Danick Martel wasn’t able to get a shot off.
Three minutes later, a rather innocent point shot from Tory Dello yielded a bad rebound from Aaron Dell. The puck bounced out to Brandon Gignac who had a lot of empty net to shoot at and he made no mistake to give the Rocket the lead. Each team had a couple of chances in the minutes after that but most of them wound up missing the net entirely.
Just past the 11-minute mark, Gignac showed off his speed, hustling about 100 feet down the right wing to get to a loose puck. He sent a perfect cross-ice pass to Alex Belzile who got a decent shot off but Dell did well to stretch across to make the stop. Less than a minute later, Brett Murray got a step on Laval’s defence and got a good shot off but Cayden Primeau was square to the shot to make the stop.
The Rocket got the first power play opportunity of the game moments later when Jack Quinn was called for a cross-check on Peter Abbandonato in the neutral zone. Laval’s first unit managed four shots on goal including a couple of strong scoring chances but they weren’t able to get another one past Dell. They continued to push after the power play ended but couldn’t pot another one. It was nonetheless a terrific first period for the home side who skated off with a one-goal lead while holding a 17-8 edge in shots.
Cedric Paquette had a good net drive early in the second period but while he was able to stretch out to clear Dell, he wasn’t able to slide it into the open net.
Three minutes later, however, he made a good play to set up a goal. Belzile skated it into Rochester’s end with speed and slid a pass to Paquette on the left wing. He quickly dropped it back for Louie Belpedio and his wrister beat Dell clean to double Laval’s lead.
A minute later, Xavier Ouellet was called for a neutral zone trip on Ryan MacInnis. The penalty kill was sharp although Primeau had to make a good stop on a Mark Jankowski one-timer near the end of it.
The Rocket then got another crack with the man advantage midway through the frame when Arttu Ruotsalainen was called for a high stick on Dello. Unfortunately for the home team, the power play wasn’t as sharp this time around. Rochester started to slowly establish some pressure after that.
With four minutes left, J.J. Peterka was stopped off the rush but the rebound bounced high to Peyton Krebs. He showed off his baseball skills, batting the puck out of midair but it just went wide. Ruotsalainen was stopped in the slot a minute later with Joel Teasdale taking a hooking penalty on the play.
On the ensuing advantage, Primeau had to be sharp, making a big pad stop on Jankowski early on. With about 15 seconds left in the penalty, the netminder made his best save of the night, sliding post-to-post to rob Ruotsalainen on a one-timer from the faceoff circle.
At this point, Laval was just trying to hold on but Primeau had to come up huge once again with just 15 seconds left when Jean-Sebastien Dea had an atrocious giveaway from behind his net, blindly throwing it to the slot where Lukas Rousek was there to pounce but Primeau kicked aside the one-timer. He was quite busy in the period, kicking aside all 14 Rochester shots, several of which were high-quality chances. Meanwhile, the Rocket were held to seven but were able to beat Dell once.
The third period was notably chippier. Murray and Belpedio had offsetting roughing minors three minutes in with Murray being notably more aggressive on the play. The Amerks controlled the four-on-four but couldn’t get much on net.
Seconds after those penalties ended, Martel was called for a trip on Casey Fitzgerald, sending Rochester back to the power play. The Americans had plenty of pressure with their top unit although only one shot on goal. Shortly after Laval cleared, Jack Quinn lost his cool, earning himself a roughing penalty on Belzile to eliminate the rest of the advantage.
Nothing much happened in the brief four-on-four stretch. Rochester had the best chance on Laval’s power play though as Belpedio tried to leave the puck at the defensive zone for a forward to carry it up but the timing was off. That allowed Ruotsalainen to skate in on a partial breakaway but Primeau came up with the stop. Late in the advantage, Cedric Paquette and Brandon Davidson got unsportsmanlike penalties as the rough stuff continued.
Just past the nine-minute mark, the puck bounced loose off the boards to Peter Abbandonato. He got a weak shot off but Dell kicked out a juicy rebound. Condotta outhustled the defender to the puck and buried it for his first professional goal.
That tally seemed to take the wind out of Rochester’s sails as the next few minutes were largely uneventful. They did get another chance with the man advantage with a little over five minutes left when Sami Niku was called for a trip on Peterka. Dell was pulled for the extra attacker soon after and while the power play was largely uneventful, just as it was expiring, Krebs set up Ruotsalainen inside the faceoff circle and his low wrister beat Primeau to end the shutout.
Dell was pulled again soon after and Martel rang one off the post moments later. That’s as close as either team got to scoring in the final two minutes as Laval held on to double their series lead and get one win away from the series victory as this is another best-of-five series. The shots in the final frame were 10-8 for Rochester to make it an even 32 apiece for the game.
HW Rocket 3 Stars
1st Star: Cayden Primeau – It’s games like these that has Montreal management (and fans) believing he has legitimate NHL upside. Primeau was sharp throughout the game and made several momentum-killing stops. With Rochester having the talent advantage on paper, Laval needed to win the goaltending battle. Primeau has done exactly that in back-to-back nights.
Stats: 31 saves on 32 shots, 59:59 TOI, 1.00 GAA, .969 SV% (the same statline as Game 1)
2nd Star: Brandon Gignac – His hustle was a big difference-maker early as it helped lead to Laval’s first goal while nearly setting up another on the Belzile chance. He did well on the penalty kill as well and was a very effective player in all three zones.
Stats: 1 goal, +3 rating, 5 shots
3rd Star: Louie Belpedio – Aside from that tough turnover on the power play in the third, Belpedio had a very strong game both offensively and defensively. Billed as more of a defensive player when Montreal signed him last summer, he has become a very key part of their attack and his ability to jump into the play led to his goal, the eventual winner.
Stats: 1 goal, +1 rating, 2 shots, 2 PIMS
Honourable Mention: Alex Belzile – The veteran helped set up Laval’s first two goals while he had a couple of good chances of his own. He also was particularly sharp on the penalty kill that did well to get rid of any momentum Rochester was starting to generate in the second period.
Stats: 2 assists, +1 rating, 2 shots